A new year calls for new beginnings. This post is going to stray from my norm a little bit. There’s no other blog post here like it so far and I’m absolutely honored to share this special event with all of you!
Late last year I was lucky enough to photograph the birth of a child. You should recognize the beautiful mommy-to-be as my dear friend (and kick-ass client), Natalie. I’m truly inspired by my lovely friend’s story…her passion and determination is unparalleled in my book. Natalie’s first pregnancy resulted in a cesarean because my favorite little (almost) 2 year old was Frank Breech (basically backwards and upside down). Since the very beginning of this second pregnancy Natalie has been positively committed to giving birth naturally and in the peaceful comfort of her own home. And when I say naturally, I DO mean naturally. No drugs or medications whatsoever. No hospitals. No pitocin. No IV. No ice-chips-only policies. Nada. In fact, Nat’s entire pregnancy was focused on organic eating, homeopathic remedies and a truly amazing support system.
Being a close friend, I was lucky enough to observe Nat’s experience from the get-go. I’m still amazed at just how much research and sheer determination she put into learning about a whole “new” (for lack of a better word) way to give birth. So many people out there just do as they’re told without questioning the doctors or the healthcare system. Regardless of the decision reached in the end, I’m crazy proud of this amazing woman for digging as deep as she could to make a decision about what’s best for her and her child based on her own research and experiences. I’m not an advocate for natural/home births or for those done in a hospital. I’m not against either one. I don’t have children of my own just yet and I really couldn’t say what will be right for me when it’s time. But I do know this: I will be doing my homework. We should all be learning for ourselves about what is truly best for us and our unborn babies instead of settling for being treated like one of the masses, just going through the motions. I know this much from many of my own experiences and when there’s something as precious as a brand new baby involved, you better believe I’ll be breaking through all the red-tape to make a solid, personalized birth plan. I’ve learned a ton from Natalie but mostly I’m just plain inspired and I hope that you will be too.
For those of you who think childbirth is absolutely fascinating like I do, there will be all kinds of good stuff in a little Q&A session after the photos. Down there you can read about Natalie’s experience with an all-natural child birth in her own words. But first, the pictures!
This time I was strictly there to document this special event. I wanted to present this birth the way it unfolded. No skin retouching. No prettifying. Just events unfolding…a story. A beautiful story of meeting a beautiful little baby named Emma. I am in love.
You wouldn’t believe how serene and calming the whole setting was. Natalie created a pretty amazing playlist of music that calms and soothes and just plain makes her happy. This first photo I love…you’d think she was relaxing at a spa…not in between strong contractions. She truly embraced every minute of this beautiful experience.
Peanut butter. In between contractions, Natalie ate spoonfuls of peanut butter. Have you ever heard such a thing!?! It makes perfect sense to me…that girl needed her energy.
A little visit from Miss Kaelynn…the soon to be big sister. Kiki did great but the poor kid just didn’t understand why she couldn’t get in mommy’s water bath! So she went to play with grandma instead. I know I’ve said it before but this kid owns a piece of my heart…for life. I’m so proud of what a great big sister she’s become!
The anticipation was another being in the room. It was very present and its essence could be felt by all. It was really fun to photograph the waiting. There was a lot of waiting. Thankfully some softer Dave Matthews tunes were there to entertain.
I could eat her up. Look how perfectly squishy she is!
I hope you all enjoyed these intimate moments with a proud new momma! Gah! I love babies! BIG HUGS and a thank you to Natalie for inviting me into her home to be a little part of such a special time in their lives. I love you all to pieces! Baby Emma will have a blog post of her very own up soon! More favorites from 2011 are scheduled too!
Now, as promised, I have all kinds of good stuff straight from Natalie about her all natural childbirth experience. Enjoy!
What were your goals with this pregnancy?
My goals were to live as clean, healthy, & stress-free as possible. I wanted to be sure to take all my vitamins & supplements as well as stay active (which wasn’t hard considering I have an extremely active toddler) so I could have the successful HBAC (homebirth after cesarean) that we had hoped for.
Can you describe a general picture of a natural pregnancy? Natural birth? Home birth?
I ate organic, I used homeopathic remedies for normal pregnancy discomforts, I didn’t have any genetic testing or a bunch of ultrasounds (we had one to make sure that my placenta wasn’t attached to any scar tissue from my previous cesarean), I saw a chiropractor with every midwifery appointment in order to get my body aligned correctly & to alleviate any pain or tension. My midwifery appointments were an hour long & super thorough, we talked about everything, she asked about me & didn’t treat me like I was “high risk” or as if I had a condition or illness. By the time Emma was due to arrive, she knew me like a friend and knew my body and pregnancy better than my OB ever could have. We wanted a homebirth because we felt it was our best opportunity to have a completely natural vaginal birth without any unnecessary medical interventions or a repeat cesarean.
What did you do differently with this “all natural” pregnancy than with your first?
I would say the biggest difference was simply the birth itself… I had an extremely healthy first pregnancy as well. With Kaelynn I was hoping for an all natural vaginal hospital birth, so I made sure I was in shape for that. Unfortunately, Kaelynn was Frank Breech, so she had to be delivered by c-section.
How was your pregnancy? How did you feel? Describe it a bit.
This pregnancy was amazing! I felt great, wasn’t sick at all and Mike and I had decided early on that we wanted a homebirth, so I just felt so excited and at peace with our decision.
How was this pregnancy different from the first?
I guess my state of mind was different mostly, with having an OB (and I actually really liked my OB a lot) I always felt like they were trying to find something wrong and with my midwife, she’d do my check-ups and it always felt so positive. With my OB, when I would discuss my plans of a natural childbirth, he admitted it was the best thing for both mother & baby, however he said that most women thought they were going to have a natural birth but can’t handle it. He also said that he was ok with us having a doula, but he didn’t want our doula to interfere with his job or try to tell him what to do. With that being said, it made me fear that I might have to fight for the natural birth I wanted rather than be encouraged. I knew this time around that I would only be lovingly encouraged to have exactly the birth that I wanted. I felt so uplifted and positive the whole pregnancy.
Do you think the differences were a result of the “natural pregnancy?”
I know that the differences in how I felt were the result of seeing a midwife rather than an OB. I never went to an appointment with my midwife with fear, only excitement!
You’ve been preparing to give birth naturally since the beginning of your pregnancy. What made you decide to have a natural birth?
I knew that I wanted to give my baby the absolute best, and for me, that’s a drug free birth. I didn’t feel like I had “something to prove” or anything, I just know that I have a high pain tolerance and that this was something I could give to my children. I have seen links to pitocin & autism, so many things can go wrong with an epidural, and there are drugs they use in deliveries that aren’t even FDA approved to use in pregnant women (theres a billion statistics out there on all this stuff, but that’s neither here nor there). Not to mention, I have had several surgeries in the past, and I do not react well to medications. I just figured it would be the absolute best gift I could give my child and the safest route for me.
Why did you decide to give birth at home rather than do it naturally at the hospital?
While a couple people I know have successfully given birth naturally in a hospital, most people I know who have tried have not been able to. Unfortunately, it’s usually been from some kind of “necessary intervention”. You wouldn’t believe how many things aren’t necessary, but are done because it’s protocol and the hospital doesn’t want to get sued. I’ve been researching all of this since I got pregnant with Kaelynn and as my research mounted, I knew that I wanted to give birth in the peace of my own home and have the hospital as my “back-up”. I strongly believe that OB’s are brilliant doctors when you need them for a surgery or emergency, but they are not the best choice if you are looking to have a normal and natural childbirth.
How far along were you when you went into labor?
I was 41 weeks and 3 days…she was very comfy in there!
From start to finish, how long were you in labor?
From the time my water broke, until she was in my arms was 15 hours. I’d have to say I wasn’t actually in active labor more like 10-12 hours.
What’s a midwife?
My hero! However…
By definition a midwife is a person, usually a woman, who is trained to assist a woman in giving birth.
What’s a doula?
Doula means, To mother the mother. A doula is there to rub your back, give emotional support, and be with you through the whole process. Some people say, that’s what a husband or partner is for, but for me, she was such an integral part of my birth. She helped Mike help me! She showed him where to touch me and how to best help me and therefore he was a better partner to me. She made the experience of labor a joyful one.
Can you compare your cesarean in the hospital to your natural home birth?
I could, but it’s pretty much an apples to oranges kind of situation. What I can compare, is how terrified Kaelynn looked as she was ripped from my womb (remember, I had a scheduled c-section, so no labor was present to prepare the baby) and the difference of how peaceful Emma was the second she came out. Some would say that it’s bull, but I’m a big believer that HOW you were birthed MATTERS
What originally inspired you to give birth at home? Where did the idea come from?
I watched “The Business of Being Born”. It’s an AMAZING documentary that I think everyone should see. After that, I couldn’t stop researching the subject, and it became something I am incredibly passionate about.
What made you so passionate about having a natural home birth?
I guess after all the hard work & research, you become passionate about it one way or another.
How did people react to the fact that you gave birth in your home? Why do you think people react this way?
Most reactions were positive ones. However, I have been called crazy, unsafe, hippy, & stupid.
Who did you invite to be present during the birth? Why did you choose them?
Mike of course, my mom, my aunt Sally, my best friend Amber, and my friend and amazing photographer Melissa [hey! that’s ME!]. Those are the people that are my rock & they are the positive energy that I wanted surrounding me that day.
How did your husband handle the home birth?
He was incredibly supportive and was an amazing partner throughout the whole birth.
What was your biggest fear about the whole process?
That I would end up with another breech baby, have to have another c-section, and I’d never experience a natural childbirth.
What were you most excited for with this process?
I guess I’m just one of those women who felt the need to experience childbirth, so I was most excited to experience a natural birth.
What was the best part of giving birth at home? Naturally?
I was so comfortable at home that I feel like the process went faster and easier. I come from a family where the women have 24-40 hour labors and I think because I was comfortable and up walking around and swaying my hips that things moved so much faster for me. I also loved that we didn’t have to stay in the hospital for days or conform to hospital policies. As far as birthing her naturally, I’d never do it any other way. I honestly had a pain-free labor up until about the last two hours. It was intense and it took my concentration, but it wasn’t painful. In those last two hours that I would describe as painful, it was so incredible what my body was doing and the power I could feel going through my body was so great, I was just trying to focus that my body was doing what it was meant to do.
What was the worst part of giving birth at home? Naturally?
The fact that insurance doesn’t cover it.. It’s so much cheaper than a hospital birth, but it’s not covered by insurance, so we had to pay out of pocket for everything. I can’t say anything negative about the homebirth itself or giving birth naturally, it was a great experience.
When researching home/natural births, what was/were your best resources for information/inspiration?
Because I was not just a homebirth, I was an HBAC, I focused mainly on VBAC statistics and read a ton of HBAC & natural VBAC birth stories. I used googlefervently, but I liked the ICAN website, as well as the Unneceserean a lot. I have read everything by Ina May Gaskin, who is an incredible midwife and imparts such wisdom about natural birth. If you were to read just one book during your pregnancy, my recommendation would be, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.
Would you do it again?
What do you think is the most important thing pregnant mothers should know? If you could get one message across, what would it be?
I believe in every kind of birth out there as long as you are educated on all of the risks. If I could say one thing, its EDUCATE YOURSELF! Our OB’s certainly don’t give us all the answers, we have to do the research and work ourselves. I know so many women who wouldn’t have done things the way they did had they known the risk involved. Just remember, the best start you can give your baby is a drug-free birth, there’s no disputing that.
Do you think you were well prepared (mentally/emotionally)? Was there anything you didn’t quite expect?
Very much so. everybody kept saying that they couldn’t believe how at peace & calm I was about the homebirth. I just knew it was what I wanted, so I committed to it 100%. I didn’t have any idea how much force the human body can have. I was surprised that the body has that much involuntary strength. It was incredible!
Any little-known-facts you’d like to share?
The cesarean rate has decreased in 2010, making it the first decrease rather than increase in over a decade. YAY! It’s still a staggering 32.8%, so it’s not a large victory by any means. Orange county & LA hospitals such as St. Joes, Hoag, & Cedars have rates that are closer to 40%. Scary!
How was the experience?
It was a really beautiful experience for me, I loved being at home with friends and family around. I loved floating around in that warm pool of water, and I loved the fact that Emma was brought into this world so peacefully!
How was the recovery? How did you feel after-wards?
I felt elated after-wards and while I did have a pretty intense tear, I felt pretty good. The recovery has been good, while it’s taken some time for me to get back to 100%, it was so nice to spend time cuddling and nursing my sweet baby.
How was baby Emma?
Amazing! She was super alert right away, she held her head up & had her eyes wide open within minutes after the birth. She is the picture of health!
Baby’s Weight & Length?
8 pounds even and 20 1/2 inches (same length as her big sister).
Birth Date & Time?
October 8th, 2011 at 4:20 PM
How is Kaelynn adjusting to being a big sister?
So much better than expected. She super sweet with Emma, she wants to hold her a lot, she kisses her non-stop, and she talk baby-talk in this high pitched squeaky little voice…it’s pretty adorable.
How are you adjusting to being a mom of 2? How is it different with a second child so far? What has been surprisingly easy? Harder than you thought?
It’s no doubt an adjustment, especially since Kaelynn is so young still. It’s all going surprisingly well though. Some days if I don’t time it just perfectly, it’s hard to get a shower & on occasion I forget to feed myself, but I think that’s all part of being a mom. I would actually say that even though it’s complete chaos sometimes, it’s a bit easier than expected. Easy or hard, it’s exactly where I want to be.
Who does Emma look like? What’s the consensus?
I think she looks more like me for sure. Everyone comments on how she and Kaelynn look so different and I would agree. They definitely both have the same pretty lips & mouth, which they definitely got from their daddy.
Is there anything you would do differently?